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SMPA halfway to fundraising goal for internship, mentoring program

Dan Rich | Photo Editor
Dan Rich | Photo Editor

The School of Media and Public Affairs has raised more than half of its fundraising goal for the SMPA Career Access Network.

SMPA celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, hosting five events with the goal of raising $250,000 for the recently launched mentoring network. Organizers of the Silver Anniversary events said the celebration was a success because it reintroduced alumni to the school, setting them up for future donations.

SMPA started a Career Access Network in September to host networking events, provide financial aid to students with unpaid internships and start a student-alumni mentoring program. Last year the school announced a $250,000 fundraising goal for SMPA CAN by June 2020, and they have raised $158,446 so far, according to the fundraising website.

Frank Sesno, the director of SMPA, said although those who donated for the Silver Anniversary could have delegated their donations to any program in SMPA, the school encouraged gifts for the network. He said officials initially set a lower goal for the program, but later increased it when they noticed a high level of interest from donors.

“Our ultimate goal is to get to $250,000,” Sesno said. “We will then be able to have five years of funding for this as we continue to raise money to endow it so that it is a permanent fixture as part of SMPA.”

Sesno said the main focus for commemorating the Silver Anniversary was to raise money for SMPA CAN because it will fund all three of the goals within the program.

“The principle focus of fundraising for our anniversary event was SMPA CAN because of its benefit to our students,” Sesno said. “The bulk of the activity has remained around the Career Access Network so far.”

SMPA is a part of the University’s $1 billion campaign, which has already raised 85 percent of its goal. SMPA aims to raise $10 million for the campaign, and fundraising from Silver Anniversary events count toward that goal. Officials declined to say how much they have raised toward that goal so far.

Char Beales, the chair of the SMPA national council, said the anniversary celebrated the changes and revitalization of SMPA’s programs. She said she was in charge of setting goals for the year-long fundraising campaign and inviting alumni to the final event.

“The first goal was to draw in a wider circle of alumni support for SMPA,” Beales said. “People that I talked to hadn’t really had a relationship with GW since they left the University. This is really going to lay the groundwork going forward.”

Beales said about 230 alumni, supporters, faculty and students attended the final celebration on May 6.

“We wanted to use this as a catalyst to raise money that would specifically help our students and that will come in the form of financial support for internships and a new mentorship program,” Beales said.

Beales said the council, which acts as the director’s advisory group and consists of “distinguished alumni and friends,” hopes to start the pilot mentorship program in the fall. She said internships are a great way for students to start careers, but the mentorship helps them stay on that right path.

“We want to set this up to be a success because with our council and our alumni, we have an array of superstars in the media business who can be incredible mentors to our students,” Beales said.

Robin Eberhardt contributed reporting.

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